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Why nearly every sport except long-distance running is fundamentally absurd • Slate
David Stipp:
<p>being the absurdly self-enthralled species we are, we crowd into arenas and stadiums to marvel at our pathetic physical abilities as if they were something special. But there is one exception to our general paltriness: we’re the right honorable kings and queens of the planet when it comes to long-distance running.

The Wales marathon has helped demonstrate that. Its originator was a Welsh pub owner named Gordon Green. One day in 1979 he got into an argument with an equestrian friend about the relative strengths of men and horses as distance runners. Green insisted a human could beat a horse in a long race, and to prove his point he helped instigate the marathon in 1980. For the next 24 years, he found himself losing the argument as riders on horseback left human runners behind. But then it finally happened—in 2004 a British man named Huw Lobb won. Three years later Germany’s Florian Holzinger outran the horses, as did one other human contestant. The media loved it—a predictable farce had become a man-bites-dog story. Bookies were less enthused; they had to pay out on bets made at 16-to-1 odds favoring the horses.

The oddsmakers would have known better if they’d been following the work of Harvard anthropologist Daniel Lieberman and University of Utah biologist Dennis Bramble. They jointly <a href="">proposed in a 2004 paper</a> that we’re superlatively endowed by evolution to go long. Our long-striding legs are packed with springlike tendons, muscles, and ligaments that enable us to briefly store elastic energy as we come down on a foot and then recoil to help propel us forward. Tellingly, the most important of these springs, our big, strong Achilles tendons, aren’t found in early human precursors such as Australopithecus—it seems that the high-end tendons evolved along with other adaptations for distance running in the genus Homo when it appeared on the African savannah about two million years ago.</p>

Fascinating (and still true; the article is from 2014). The reason seems to be our likely past as long-distance hunters and scavengers.
Human  evolution  marathon 
5 days ago by charlesarthur
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7 weeks ago by asaltydog

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